By Todd Richmond
MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin wildlife officials said Wednesday that they don’t plan to make any revisions to the state’s long-term chronic wasting disease plan until at least the end of the year.
A stakeholder committee spent the fall developing about 60 changes to the existing 15-year plan for the Department of Natural Resources. Their top priorities include informing people about deer carcass transportation restrictions, improving public understanding of the disease, informing meat processors and taxidermists about proper carcass disposal and collaborating with outside researchers. Lower priority recommendations include double-fencing for infected deer farms, implementing local herd reduction in newly infected areas and maintaining the state’s current deer hunting season structure.
DNR Big Game Chief Bob Nack told the agency’s board during a meeting Wednesday that the agency now plans to sit down with representatives from the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection and the Conservation Congress, a group of sportsmen that advises the DNR on policy, and identify recommendations that look feasible and effective. He promised to update the board in December.
“It was a big effort to get to this point today,” Nack said. “The work has just begun. We have some recommendations here. Now we have to roll up our sleeves and get to it.”
Board Chairman Terry Hilgenberg said he was concerned that it could take years to implement the revisions, particularly changes that might require legislative action or regulatory changes. Nack told him that many of the recommendations aren’t new and the DNR is already doing them, such as informing hunters on how to handle and consume their deer and monitoring research on CWD risks to humans. Hilgenberg didn’t press any further.
Board member Gary Zimmer told Nack to document the rationale for moving forward on some recommendations and discarding others. The board took no action.
Nack said outside the meeting that no one has discussed a maximum or minimum number of recommendations to adopt.
CWD attacks deer’s brains. Infected animals grow thin, act strangely and eventually die. The disease has been found in more than 40 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties.